Benny Binion was always looking for a way to market his Horseshoe Casino. In the past, he had created such events as the Johnny Moss/Nick the Greek heads-up matchup and the legendary World Series of Poker to garner interest in making the trip to his casino.
In 1979, he wanted a permanent attraction for his casino. He wanted something that would fit in with other attractions such as his $1 million display of $10,000 bills as well as his gambling attractions.
He decided that he’d create the Poker Hall of Fame.
The rights to the Poker Hall of Fame were sold to Caesars Entertainment (then known as Harrah’s) with the rights to the World Series of Poker. The administrators of the WSOP currently handle all aspects of the Poker Hall of Fame.
Before 2009, there were no defined criteria to nominate or induct a person into the Poker Hall of Fame. This changed in 2009. The commissioner at the time, Jeffrey Pollack, announced criteria as well as the fact that nominations could be made by the general public.
The current criteria from membership into the Poker Hall of Fame are:
The first class was the largest class of the Poker Hall of Fame. It consisted of seven inductees, six of whom were inducted posthumously.
Edmond Hoyle (1672 – August 29, 1769) – Inducted posthumously, Edmond Doyle is the godfather of all things playing cards related. Although he died 60 years before poker was invented, he was inducted because his rules were the authoritative work on playing Whist, the most popular card game of his time. His name is synonymous with being an authority on a subject.
James “Wild Bill” Hickok (May 27, 1837 – August 2, 1876) – He was known for many things in his life, including being a Union Army soldier, a spy for the Union, a scout, lawman, gunfighter, and actor. But he was one of the best poker players of his era. He was shot in the back in 1876 while playing poker. He was said to have a pair of aces and a pair of 8s. This became known as a “dead man’s hand.”
Sidney “Sid” Wyman (June 1, 1910 – June 26, 1978) – Sid died a year before he was inducted and was a friend and competitor to Benny Binion. Wyman was an excellent poker player and owned the Sands, Riviera, Royal Nevada, and The Dunes Hotels and Casinos.
J.H. “Red” Winn (1896 – Unknown) – Not much is known about Red Winn. He played in the early 20th century and was known as a great player in his time.
Felton “Corky” McCorquodale (August 23, 1904 – November 23, 1968) – Corky’s main claim to fame is that he introduced Texas hold’em to Las Vegas. He first introduced it in the now-defunct California Club in 1963. He was also known as a great no-limit player.
Nick “the Greek” Dandolos (April 27, 1883 – December 25, 1966) – Nick the Greek was a logical choice for Binion to induct into the first Poker Hall of Fame class as he had set up a heads-up match against fellow inductee Johnny Moss in 1949. The two played every known variation of poker at the time. It lasted for five months and was an attraction that Binion featured in his casino.
In his career, Nick stated that he went “from rags to riches” 73 times. He is estimated to have made half a billion dollars in his lifetime. He died almost penniless but still managed to play $5 limit draw games when he could.
Johnny Moss (May 14, 1907 – December 16, 1995) – Johnny Moss was the only person in the Class of 1979 not to be inducted posthumously. Moss was known as “The Grand Old Man of Poker.” He won three of the first five World Series of Poker Main Events (1970, 1971, and 1974). He played in every WSOP from 1970 until his death in 1995. He was the oldest bracelet winner in the history of the event. He has documented tournament winnings of over $1.2 million, but it is likely much higher than that.
T. “Blondie” Forbes – A famous poker player and gambler, Forbes is noted for creating the game of Texas hold’em.
William “Bill” Boyd (January 27, 1906 – November 21, 1997) – Known for his job as the manager of the Golden Nugget card room from its opening in 1948 until it closed in 1988, Boyd also racked up four bracelets at the WSOP in 5-Card Stud events. He was responsible for adding the game Omaha to the Golden Nugget and the spread of its popularity in Las Vegas.
Tom Abdo (April 12, 1894 – March 1967) – He was famous for having a heart attack at a poker table and asking another player to count his chips and to save his seat, with the intention of returning to the game.
Joe Bernstein (January 5, 1899 – November 12, 1975) – Bernstein was a poker player and gambler who won the 1973 WSOP Limit Ace to 5 Draw.
Murph Harrold – While not much information is available about Harrold, he was regarded as one of the best 2 to 7 lowball poker players ever.
Red Hodges – Hodges was considered one of the best 7-Card Stud players of all time.
Henry Green – He traveled the South as a road gambler. Not much more is known about him.
Walter “Puggy” Pearson (January 29, 1929 – April 12, 2006) – He won the 1973 WSOP Main Event as well as two other WSOP bracelets. He’s credited with inventing the freeze-out style of poker tournament.
Doyle Brunson – Brunson is known for having written the definitive book on playing poker, Super/System. He’s won 10 WSOP bracelets and has had 37 money finishes since the first WSOP in 1970, including two Main Event wins in 1976 and 1977. His lifetime live tournament winnings amount to $6,176,737.
Jack “Treetop” Straus (June 16, 1930 – August 17, 1988) – Straus was best known for his WSOP Main Event win in 1982. In the tournament, he was down to one chip, and he went on to win the entire event. Straus died while playing a high-stakes poker game at the Bicycle Casino.
Fred “Sarge” Ferris (December 1, 1928 – March 12, 1989) – Ferris won his only WSOP bracelet in the 1980 2-7 draw event. He defeated Doyle Brunson, who came in second, and 1980 WSOP Main Event winner Bobby Baldwin, who placed third. Ferris was known mostly for cash games but chalked up a few tournaments wins, giving him a lifetime live tournament cash total of about $250,000.
Lester “Benny” Binion (November 20, 1904 – December 25, 1989) – He was the founder of the Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, the World Series of Poker, and the Poker Hall of Fame.
David “Chip” Reese (March 28, 1951 – December 4, 2007) – Regarded as the greatest cash poker player of all time, Chip Reese won four WSOP bracelets and collaborated on the 7-card stud section of Doyle Brunson’s book Super/System. At 40 years old, he was the youngest inductee to the Poker Hall of fame. In 2009, the “Chip Reese Rule” established the minimum age of 40 to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Thomas “Amarillo Slim” Preston Jr. (December 31, 1928 – April 29, 2012) – Amarillo Slim became synonymous with poker from the 1970s on. He won the 1972 WSOP Main Event. He won four bracelets in the WSOP and had 11 money finishes. He founded the Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker, which was second only to the WSOP in prestige in the poker world. His lifetime live tournament winnings totaled nearly $600,000.
“Gentleman” Jack Keller (December 29, 1942 – December 5, 2003) – Keller was the winner of three WSOP bracelets including the 1984 Main Event. He also won two Amarillo Slim’s Super Bowl of Poker Main Events. His live tournament lifetime winnings totaled almost $4 million.
Julius “Little Man” Popwell (June 1, 1912 – May 19, 1966) – He was one of the most famous 5-Card Stud players from the first half of the 1900s. He was known to take on all the top talent of the era, most notably, several heads-up matches with Johnny Moss.
Roger Moore (April 10, 1938 – October 22, 2011) – Moore won the WSOP bracelet for the $5,000 Seven Card Stud event in 1994, and he competed in several WSOPs between 1974 until his death in 2011. He had 12 money finishes in the tournament, and his career live tournament earnings totaled over $600,000.
Stuart “The Kid” Ungar (September 8, 1953 – November 22, 1998) – Believed to be the greatest Texas hold’em and Gin player of all time, Ungar is one of only two men to win the Main Event of the WSOP three times and the only one to win it under the current format (Johnny Moss won the 1970 Main Event by a vote).
Lyle Arnold Berman – Berman has won three World Series of Poker bracelets and 16 cashes at the WSOP. He has won nearly $2.7 million in live poker tournament play, but his preference is to play high-stakes cash games.
Johnny Chan – He’s the winner of the 1987 and 1988 WSOP Main Events and is one of only four players to have won ten or more WSOP bracelets. He has live tournament winnings of over $8.7 million.
Bobby Baldwin – Baldwin was the winner of the 1978 WSOP Main Event and the youngest winner at the time. He’s won four WSOP bracelets and has had 20 WSOP money finishes. His career live tournament winnings total over $2.3 million.
Berry Johnston – Winner of the 1986 WSOP Main Event, Johnson has won 5 WSOP bracelets and has had 66 WSOP money finishes. Johnson has a lifetime live tournament winnings total of over $3.5 million.
Jack Binion – He hosted and owned the WSOP from 1970 through 2004. He was the caretaker for the Poker Hall of Fame from 1989 when his father died until it was sold to Harrah’s (now Caesars) in 2004. He was the former owner of Binion’s Horseshoe Casino until it was sold in 2004.
“Dandy” Crandell Addington – He played in the original 1970 WSOP and was at the final table every year from 1972 through 1979. He stopped playing in tournaments actively in 1990, with one exception when he was at the WSOP in 2005 for his Hall of Fame induction. Fellow Hall of Famer Doyle Brunson has labeled him as a “No Limit Hold’em Legend.”
Thomas “T. J.” Cloutier – Cloutier is the only person in the history of the WSOP to have won events in all three types of Omaha (Pot Limit High, Limit High, and Limit 8-or-Better High-Low Split). He has won six WSOP bracelets and has had nine money finishes.
William “Billy” Baxter Jr. – Although he’s the winner of seven bracelets and 35 money finishes in the WSOP, he’s best known for the case of William E. Baxter Jr. vs. the United States. The case established poker winnings as “earned income” as opposed to “unearned income,” which was taxable up to 70% by the IRS. The case protected career poker players by defining their tax status as equal to those who worked other jobs.
Barbara Enright – She’s the winner of three bracelets and 21 money finishes at the WSOP and is the only woman to make it to the final table of the Main Event. Enright is the first woman to be inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame.
Phillip “Phil” Hellmuth Jr. – Hellmuth won the 1989 WSOP Main Event and the 2012 WSOP Europe Main Event. He has 136 money finishes and a record 15 WSOP bracelets. His lifetime live tournament winnings total over $22.8 million.
Duane “Dewey” Tomko – He’s the winner of three WSOP bracelets and has 42 money finishes. He had played in every WSOP since 1974, giving him the record with 44 consecutive years as of 2018.
Henry Orenstein – Orenstein is the winner of one WSOP bracelet and has had four money finishes in the tournament. He is the creator of the “hole cam,” which allows audiences to see players’ hole cards on televised tournaments. He was a producer of the Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament and High Stakes Poker.
Michael “Mike” Sexton – With one bracelet and 59 WSOP Money finishes, Sexton is best known as a former commentator for the World Poker Tour where he also has one win. Sexton has repeatedly been recognized as one of the top ambassadors of poker and is an ardent promoter of the game.
“Action” Dan Harrington – Known for his tight, conservative play, Action Dan won the 1995 WSOP Main event. He has two bracelets and has had 12 money finishes. In addition, he has one WPT title and over $6,600,000 in live tournament career winnings.
Erik Seidel – He’s the winner of eight WSOP bracelets with 92 money finishes and a WPT title. As of February 2019, he is third on the all-time money list with over $34,700,000 in lifetime live tournament winnings.
Barry Greenstein – Known as the “Robin Hood of poker” for donating his tournament winnings, Greenstein has won three WSOP bracelets and had 102 money finishes. He also has won two WPT titles. His lifetime tournament winnings exceed $8.3 million.
Linda Johnson – “The First Lady of Poker” has one WSOP bracelet for the 1997 $1,500 Seven Card Razz event. She was the publisher of Card Player Magazine and helped form the Tournament Director’s Association.
Eric Drache – He was the WSOP’s tournament director from 1973 to 1988. He created the concept of satellite tournaments. He is known as a formidable stud player and finished second in WSOP stud events in 1973, 1981, and 2009.
Bryan “Sailor” Roberts (March 7, 1931 – June 23, 1995) – One of the original seven in the 1970 WSOP tournament, Roberts won the 1975 Main Event. He won two bracelets and had three WSOP money finishes in his career.
Thomas “Tom” McEvoy – He’s the winner of the 1983 WSOP Main Event and four bracelets overall. He was the first player to win an event via earning a seat by a satellite event. In 2002, McEvoy convinced organizers to make the WSOP a non-smoking tournament.
Thuan “Scotty” Nguyen – Nguyen is the winner of five WSOP bracelets including the 1998 Main Event and the 2008 HORSE World Championship. He is the only player to win both as of 2018. He is also one of four players to have a WPT title and WSOP Main Event bracelet.
Jack McClelland – He served as the Tournament Director of the WSOP in the 1980s and manager of the poker room at the Bellagio between 2002 and 2013.
Daniel “Kid Poker” Negreanu – Negreanu is one of the best players of the 21st century. He is the only person to be named WSOP Player of the year twice, in 2004 and in 2013. He is the second-biggest live tournament winner of all time with winnings totaling nearly $40 million. The Global Poker Index rated him as the greatest player of the decade in 2014. He has won two WSOP bracelets and two WPT Championship titles.
Johnson “John” Juanda – He has won five WSOP bracelets and an EPT title. He has a lifetime live tournament winning total over $16.7 million.
Jennifer Harman – She’s the only woman to have won two bracelets in open WSOP events. She has reached the final table 12 times and has had three money finishes. Her lifetime live tournament winnings are over $2.7 million.
Juan Carlos Mortensen – Mortensen is the winner of two WSOP bracelets, including the 2001 Main Event. He also has won three WPT Championship titles. He’s the only South American to win the WSOP Main Event.
Todd “Darkhorse” Brunson – With over $4 million in tournament winnings, Brunson has taken only one WSOP bracelet but has had 47 cash finishes. He’s the son of Doyle Brunson, making the Brunsons the second father-son inductees after the Binions.
Phillip “Phil” Ivey Jr. – Recognized as one of the best all-around players in the world, Ivey is one of only four people who have won ten WSOP bracelets or more. As of 2019, he is tenth on the all-time money earners list with $26,267,283.
David “Devilfish” Ulliott (April 1, 1954 – April 6, 2015) – He won a WSOP bracelet and a WPT Championship title. He had 33 WSOP money finishes. His career tournament winnings were $6,235,521.
Mori Eskandani – He’s a poker player turned TV producer who produced programs such as the WSOP, Poker After Dark, and High Stakes Poker.
John “Johnny World” Hennigan – Hennigan is the winner of five WSOP bracelets and one WPT title. As of 2019, he has amassed more than $8.2 million in tournament winnings.
The 53 men and three women inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame all have made their mark on the poker world in some way. Some were players, some were behind the scenes, and one set the foundation for the game years before it was invented.
As the years pass, these people will be remembered, and more will be added to their ranks as poker gains even more popularity than it has over the last few decades.
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